Landfill Goes From Wasteland to Solar Plant

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), there are about 100,000 closed landfills in the United States. These sites represent hundreds of thousands of acres of property that could be used for renewable energy development. In addition, many of these landfills are near urban areas and have infrastructure in place to deliver solar and other forms of alternative energy economically.

Fortunately, landfill owners and operators are beginning to catch on to this opportunity to turn wastelands into a sources of renewable energy. Republic Services has announced the completion of a solar photovoltaic (PV) landfill cover on top of its closed Hickory Ridge landfill near Atlanta. The installation is the world’s largest landfill solar energy cap; and only the third application of this technology in the U.S. The 1-megawatt (MW) solar array covers approximately 10 acres along the south slope of the 45-acre site, and is configured to allow access to landfill gas collection wells for a future landfill gas-to-energy project at the site. The cover will generate more than 1 million kilowatt-hours (kWh) of renewable electricity annually – enough to power 224 homes in Georgia.

landfill

image via Carlisle Energy Services

The Spectro PowerCap, made by Carlisle Energy Services (CES), integrates thin-film photovoltaic panels into a three-ply membrane. The system meets regulatory requirements as a means of permanent landfill closure, and also generates electricity. A similar closure system was also installed earlier this year atop a municipal landfill in Madison, N.Y.

The roughly $5 million investment by Republic was offset by a $2 million grant from the Georgia Environmental Finance Authority. Georgia received $82.5 million in funding for state energy-efficiency and renewable energy programs through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

Lauren Craig is a writer and consultant living in Seattle, WA. She holds an M.S. in International Development from Tulane University, and is co-founder of Sustainable Systems Integrators, LLC., an employee-owned solar energy design and installation firm in New Orleans, LA. She is also certified in PV design and installation by the North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners (NABCEP).